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How Sleep Loss Leads To Weight Gain

By March 7, 2014March 9th, 2014Body Care

Last week as I returned from Myanmar, across multiple time zones,I found myself with a ravenous appetite.  Really I was so hungry.  Jet lag causes disruptions in our body’s internal clock — also known as our circadian rhythm.  Our circadian rhythm affects our body chemistry particularly our hormones.

Sleep deprivation puts our body in a chronic state of stress. Stress elevates cortisol levels and stimulates insulin secretion, which in turn affects our appetite.  Clearly my hormones were out of balance.  I did eat quite a bit more food than normal to satisfy my body and help recover from the jet lag.

Even though I felt like having sweets I knew eating sugary foods would only prolong this hunger.  Instead I ate foods with healthy fats; lots of avocado, salads with tahini dressing and organic chicken,Thai Style Vegetables with Spicy Coconut Sauce. I was eating these dishes for breakfast since my clock was all turned around.

Healthy fats are always the place to go when you are craving sugar.  Healthy fats will give you long lasting energy.  Sugar on the other hand will give you a quick burst of energy then a rapid drop leaving you craving more sugar.

When I’m working with new clients, I always address the issue of deep sleep  at the beginning because it’s vital for balancing your weight.   So what happens, biologically, when you don’t sleep well? I will explain this below.

For all the members of the Nourishing Foods Cleansing Community you can plan for the Spring Cleanse.

iStock_forkNourishing Foods Spring Cleanse 
 Restore Your Liver
April 28-May 2
It will be after Passover and Easter when the fresh greens necessary for cleansing the liver start coming into the farmers markets.

How Sleep Loss Leads To  Weight Gain

Sleep is the foundation to your health.  You could be taking all the steps to creating health but if you are missing your sleep it is all out the window.

Sleep is the foundation to all the major systems in our body.  Lack of sleep has a profound effect on our gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, hormonal and immune systems not to mention our moods behaviors and therefore our relationships. 

Getting enough sleep:

  • prevents you from gaining unnecessary weight, especially around your belly
  • prevents you from getting sick,
  • prevents premature aging
  • helps you have more focus and energy to manage stress
  • helps to fight off hypertension and heart disease.

On average, we’re getting one to two hours less sleep a night than we did 50 to 100 years ago and 38 minutes less on weeknights than we did as little as 10 years ago. Between 50 and 70 million people in the United States suffer from some form of chronic sleep disorder. When our sleep is disturbed, whatever the cause, our system breaks down.

If you’re gaining weight, it could be because you’re not getting enough sleep.

Losing sleep tends to make people eat more and gain weight.  There is a strong relationship between sleep loss and weight gain. Studies have shown that both adults and children are more likely to gain weight the less they sleep at night.  One study at the University of Colorado showed losing even just a few hours of sleep a few nights in a row caused people to gain an average of about 2 pounds.

What happens in our body is the lack of sleep reduces insulin sensitivity (meaning the cells have less of that ability to accept the blood sugar for fuel) and raises cortisol levels.

In the brain lack of sleep increases the release of the hunger hormone ghrelin while simultaneously decreasesthe levels of the satiety hormone, leptin triggering the need to consume more food. A Mayo Clinic study showed that sleep deprivation led to a significant increase in food intake.

How Sleep Loss Affects Your Brain

Throughout the day toxins build up in our cells as byproducts of metabolism.  This is a normal process . The lymphatic system serves as the body’s janitors: Whenever waste is formed, it sweeps it clean. The brain, however, is outside its reach.

The lymph system is not designed to clean up the toxins that build up in your brain.  

Many toxins build up in the brain since your brain uses up about 20% of your body’s energy. One of these wastes beta-amyloid is a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

How does the waste that builds up from using our brains get cleaned up?  

Think of it like a fish tank, if you have no filter in the tank the water is going to get pretty nasty and the fish will eventually die.  So where it the filter for the brain?

Dr. Nedergaard in a study at the University of Rochester Medical School discovered that the brain’s interstitial space – the fluid-filled area between tissue cells that takes up about 20 percent of the brain’s total volume – was mainly dedicated to physically removing the cells’ daily waste.  She proposed that the brain has a system, a brain equivalent of the lymphatic system, a network of channels that cleared out toxins with watery cerebrospinal fluid. She called it the glymphatic system,

In Dr. Nedergaard’s  study with mice, she found that when the mice slept, their brain swelled to over 20 percent. As a result, the cerebrospinal fluid could not only flow more freely but it could also reach further into the brain. In an awake brain, it would flow only along the brain’s surface. Indeed, the awake flow was a mere 5 percent of the sleep flow. In a sleeping brain, waste was being cleared two times faster.   She is still waiting approval to test this on  humans.  So far the glymphatic system has been identified as the neural housekeeper in baboons, dogs and goats.

Sleep, it turns out, may play a crucial role in our brain’s physiological maintenance. As your body sleeps, your brain is quite actively playing the part of mental janitor: It’s clearing out all of the junk that has accumulated as a result of your daily thinking. 

We all know from experience that sleep deprivation interferes with our ability to concentrate and pay attention.  Now it seems lack of sleep may be causing irreparable damage to the brain, prematurely aging it or setting it up for neurological problems such as Alzheimer’s which may result from the build up of toxins.  This is certainly something to consider when you are staying up late, not getting enough sleep.

Other consequences of sleep loss include:

  • Lowered concentration and ability to learn
  • Increased risk of accidents (really studies show this)
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Increased risk of heart disease, stroke, depression and diabetes
  • Forgetfulness
  • More wrinkles, fine lines, and aging effects on the skin
  • Impaired judgment
How Much Sleep Do We Need

According to the Mayo Clinic adults need 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Sometimes people begin to sleep less as they get older but the research shows the degree to which your sleep deteriorates or improves over time has more to do with your general health than your age.

Teens need about 9 1/4 hours of sleep each night to function best (for some, 8 ½ hours is enough).

School age children need between 9-11 hours of sleep.

Tips for Better Sleep

For most people, a few changes in daily routine are enough to encourage 7-8 hours a night on most nights.

  • Same time every night. A regular sleep schedule will do wonders for your ability to nod off when you want to.  Incorporating a regular “before sleep” routine can also help. Aim to go to bed by 10 pm. Head in the direction of bed around 9:30 to wind down. Melatonin secretion starts around 9pm and ceases around 7:30am with our period of deepest sleep at 2am. Between 11 and 1 is when you get your most restorative sleep.
  • Don’t fall asleep in front of the TV;it causes chemical changes in your brain that interrupt your sleeping patterns.
  • Have adequate protein throughout the day starting with breakfast.  That protein will be converted to melatonin by night.  Melatonin is your sleep hormone.  You need melatonin in order to reach deep sleep.  It is also a major antioxidant.
  • Create a comfortable sleeping atmosphere.. Most people sleep best in a slightly cooler, dark room that’s quiet. Get the best mattress you can afford, as all the other tips won’t make any difference if you’re mattress doesn’t properly support your body.
  • Exercise: Scientists have even found that some type of movement, like 10 minutes of sprints, four times a week can change poor sleepers into good sleepers.
  • Keep a notebook by your bed.Use it to jot down all those concerns that run around in your head and keep you up at night.
  • If you can’t sleep, don’t just lie there. Try deep breathing or meditation. If you can’t get back to sleep after 15 minutes, try a quiet, low-light activity like reading a book (no computers!) or having a cup of herbal tea.
  • Taking a detox bath, 1-2 cups of Epsom salts into your bath with baking soda and lavender.  Have a glass of purified water with lemon.  This will relax you and detox you.
  • Doing some type of breathing meditation before bed will release some of the stress hormones and fill you with the calming hormones you need to have a good night’s sleep.  I like alternate nostril breathing.
  • Listening to some soothing music, or doing some restorative yoga like legs up the wall will relax you before bed.
  • Chamomile. A cup of chamomile tea before bed has long been known to help people relax and become drowsy. If it works for you, you can use this one as long as you like. It has no side effects.
  • It is best not engaging in stimulating activities before bed even TV which can get your adrenalin going.  If you are going to exercise in the evening be sure you do it before  8pm and not too strenuously.
  • Turn off your electronics in your bedroom.  Unplug your router, your cell phone, unplug your TV.  These wireless frequencies inhibit the production of melatonin and we need melatonin high at night to help us sleep and to support our immunity.
  • Darken your bedroom. Turn off all lights.  Any light your body senses will suppress your melatonin.
  • Have a small protein snack. One of the reasons for difficulty sleeping is there could be a drop in your blood sugar resulting in a cortisol surge.  If you are someone who wakes in the night try having a piece of chicken or turkey to keep your blood sugar stable through the night.  If you are vegetarian some pumpkin seeds or chia pudding may help.
  • A avoid eating anything 3 hours before bed except as recommended above to maintain your blood sugar.

As you can see sleep is key to vibrant health.  If you have trouble sleeping regularly let me know and we could do some tapping to help you!

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